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Now that the once every ten years Sunday, Census day has passed, scammers are using the opportunity to pressure and trick people into handing over their details, police warn. With potential fines of up to £1,000 for not completing the Census or for providing false information, criminals are attempting a range of techniques to take advantage.
The police reporting line Action Fraud has warned of the potential for scammers to send phishing emails or texts to trick recipients out of personal details they would expect to disclose to the Census. There have also been reports of victims claiming to have been called by someone purporting to be from the Office of National Statistics suggesting the Census form had not been completed correctly.
Residents in the UK will only be contacted about the census via letter and will never be asked for their banking details or passwords for online accounts. If you have provided your details in response to a Census scam, report it to your bank at once, is the official advice, and also to Action Fraud or Police Scotland.
Amber Burridge, Head of Fraud Intelligence for the trade body Cifas, said: ‘The Census is providing criminals with a unique opportunity to steal people’s personal and financial data which can be used to commit identity theft. ONS has confirmed that they will never call people and ask for this type of personal information, and if anyone is contacted by someone wanting to discuss their Census form then they must hang immediately and report the incident to Action Fraud.
‘Throughout the pandemic we have seen that fraudsters have been quick to respond to new and emerging issues in order to steal information and money. Although lockdown will begin to ease over the next few months, criminals will try even harder to use opportunities such as the vaccine roll-out to commit fraud. Now is not the time to be letting our guard down, and we must continue to be ever vigilant of the threat of fraud.’
Action Fraud meanwhile reports an automated telephone call telling you that your “National Insurance number has been compromised” and to fix this and get a new number, the victim needs to “press 1 on their handset to be connected to the caller”. Once connected to the “caller”, you are pressured into giving over personal details to receive a new National Insurance number. In reality, the connection is to a criminal who can now use the personal details to commit fraud.
Pauline Smith, Head of Action Fraud, said: “We are asking the public to remain vigilant and be cautious of any automated calls they receive mentioning their National Insurance number becoming compromised. It’s important to remember if you’re contacted out the blue by someone asking for your personal or financial details, this could be a scam.
“Even confirming personal details, such as your email address, date of birth or mother’s maiden name, can be used by criminals to commit fraud. If you have any doubts about what is being asked of you, hang up the phone. No legitimate organisation will rush or pressure you.”
Among a myriad of other scams, texts supposedly come from Royal Mail; an unsolicited text claims that “your Royal Mail parcel is awaiting delivery. Please confirm the settlement of 2.99 (GBP) on the following link:”. In February, Royal Mail itself warned the public about a similar email scam, and it appears that the campaign is taking new forms, says the Chartered Trading Standards Institute (CTSI).